By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE – For Christina Rosca, brains run in the family.
Rosca, a sophomore on Vanderbilt’s tennis team, grew up the daughter of parents who used academics to escape oppression. As citizens of communist-controlled Romania, Justinian and Daniela Rosca fled their home country on the heels of scholarship offers for doctoral programs at American universities. Justinian Rosca ended up at University of Rochester, while Daniela went on to study at Old Dominion University.
The Roscas made the most of their opportunities in the states. Daniela went on to intern at NASA and now teaches software engineering at Monmouth University. Justinian, meanwhile, is a researcher for Siemens after having been a member of the Romanian Math Olympic team.
That intellectual pedigree has stuck with Christina Rosca as she forges her academic – and athletic – career at Vanderbilt.
“My parents’ background made me want to challenge myself academically,” Rosca said. “I think they hoped I’d go into a computer field, but I don’t want to sit at a computer all day.”
Now Rosca is a neuroscience major with an eye on medical school in the future. She is also a key cog for the Commodores’ tennis squad, which is fresh off its second straight SEC Tournament title and begins its stint in the NCAA Sweet 16 on Thursday in Winston-Salem, N.C. The top-seeded Dores face Miami at 3 p.m. CT.
Amid a rigorous academic workload, Rosca has reached as high as No. 20 in the nation at the No. 3 singles spot for Commodores this season. She has also teamed with freshman Amanda Meyer to form one of Vandy’s most consistent doubles tandems. Entering Thursday’s NCAA Sweet 16 stint, Rosca and Meyer have won 11 straight doubles matches. That includes clinching the doubles point in last Saturday’s Round of 32 match vs. No. 41 Clemson, 6-2, over the Tigers’ Daniela Ruiz and Sydney Riley.
But that chemistry didn’t come naturally for Meyer and Rosca. Early on, the sophomore Rosca tried to serve as a mentor for Meyer, working with the younger Commodore to maintain her poise in tense matches.
NCAA PREVIEW: Commodores take on Miami in NCAA Sweet 16
“She just needed someone to help her stay calm on the court,” Rosca said. “She was new to the doubles thing. It can be hard for freshmen -- it was hard for me last year, too. But Amanda executes wonderfully. It’s been super great playing with her.”
Vanderbilt head coach Geoff Macdonald – the newly tabbed SEC Coach of the Year – said Rosca’s leadership has paid dividends for the Commodores in doubles.
“Chris is a sophomore, but she’s leading a freshman like she’s 30 years old and been on tour,” Macdonald said. “Chris has done a really great job of teaching Amanda. Peer-to-peer is a more effective way of teaching than from us sometimes. Those two do a lot of that on the court, and it’s pretty neat.”
Though Rosca is just a sophomore, her Vanderbilt experience makes her seem like a seasoned veteran. Dating to last season, the Commodores have claimed four SEC titles – two regular-season crowns and two tournament championships – with Rosca as a major piece of the puzzle. This season, Rosca joined junior Fernanda Contreras and redshirt senior Astra Sharma as All-SEC First Team honorees following the program’s league tournament title.
But Rosca also knows well the pain of defeat. Vanderbilt’s 2017 season came to a halt with a loss to Florida in the NCAA semifinals. That’s a feeling Rosca doesn’t want to feel again.
“I think we’re all taking things one match at a time,” Rosca said. “It’s super important to keep that perceptive. We did that well at the SEC Tournament -- we were seeded No. 1, but that didn’t affect us. We just have to go out and try to play smart, play our best and let the chips fall where they may.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.